by: Joel V. Grineau
|Crisis And Beyond
When I was just a lad, a friend of mine, who had already been collecting comic books for a few years, became my mentor and provided me with some guidance in my new hobby. The one unbreakable rule he held, was - do not collect DC comics.
Heck, we agreed that the DC stood for Dunce Cap. Hey, I was still in elementary school, and it was 1981. And to a novice collector in 1981, DC comics were a pack of trouble. Of course, in 1985, DC would get its act together in an event, so cosmic, that to this day, DC continuity ends, and starts with "Crisis".
Of course, we have to go back a couple of decades to make sense of this. Like most truly evil things, it began innocently enough. The BIG PROBLEM arose, in "Flash" 123 (1961). Barry Allen (the Silver Age Flash) met up with his idol Jay Garrick (the Golden Age Flash), whom he had read about in comic books. DC owned the rights to the old Flash, so why not have him meet his younger counterpart? Old fans would love it, young fans would get to see the impetuous for their new favourite hero; and of course, sales would probably rise due to the combining of two fan bases.
The big problem, was that Jay Garrick and his comrades (the Justice Society of America, or JSA- the topic of a future column to be sure), had actively fought the Germans in WW II, whereas to Barry Allen, they were only comic book characters. To solve this paradox, someone (and I don't know who) decided, they both exist, but on parallel Earths, separated by a thin dimensional veil, which allowed Jay to crossover and meet Barry. Problem solved. And later, it became almost a yearly event to have Jay's team, the JSA based on Earth 2, crossover and have an adventure with Barry's team, the JLA, based on Earth 1.
Suddenly, Pandora was out of the box. Soon, whenever stories came out that didn't fit into continuity, they too could be set on a parallel earth. So, Earth Prime was us, and had no super heroes at all, Earth X was stuck in WWII, and so on. Soon, they could interact with each other without the Earth 1 "touchstone" where most of the DC action took place. But soon it was too convoluted, and new fans in particular had problems with it, which translated into declining sales.
Something had to be done. And it was. "Crisis on Infinite Earths", a 12-issue maxi-series ran its course over 1985. It was humongous. Five worlds, 100's of heroes and villains, 2 big deaths: Barry Allen- Flash (ironic revenge?) and Supergirl; numerous smaller deaths: Dove, Golden Age Huntress, etc. Time lines righted. No grey-haired Superman married to Lois Lane. No Wonder Woman who flew with an invisible jet. No Superman as a teenaged Superboy in Smallville.
Of course, I read it. And I was still confused. What was the big deal? Then I realized what was at stake.
Every comic book DC had published from 1938 to 1985 now no longer existed in the new continuity.
It was ground zero. Everything had to be redone, and retold, and thank God, it was more rational and made more sense. For example, there was no more Legion of Superpets. Luther's hate for Superman now made sense.
But Crisis didn't solve everything. For example, no Superboy meant no Legion of Super Heroes. . . as Superboy had been instrumental in their being founded. But the Legion is a large hunk of franchise in 30th century DC. So, things had to be righted. Thus, "Secret Origins" (1986-90) was needed to establish many characters origins in the new continuity. "Legends" (1987), "Millenium" (1988), , "Armageddon: Inferno" (1992), and lastly "Zero Hour" (1995) reestablished the time line, and the heroes places in the world and the cosmos. A decade to put it all together.
Of course, it's not really all together, one of the great joys of comic books is that the story, including its beginning, is never over. Thus, this years "Genesis" (shudder), dealt in part with the DC timeline and the origins of its heroes.
So, since 1985, the DC myth has grown anew.
||Joel Grineau is a former Writer/Contributing Editor for "Chaos"
Magazine. "Iron Man" 146 (purchased in the spring of
1981) was his first comic book, and time has not worn down his
enjoyment of them. Joel holds a BA from the University of Guelph and an MA
from the University of Saskatchewan. He is currently an officer with the Canadian Forces.
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